Macron for creation of a ‘real European army’

French President, Emmanuel Macron Calls for a 'European Army' to defend against China, Russia and the U.S.

Background

The European Union (EU) is one of the biggest economic and military power in the world, despite the lack of a common EU defence policy. Almost all of the member states of the EU (with exception of Austria, Cyprus, Malta, Finland, Ireland and Sweden) are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since the EU does not have a fully integrated foreign policy, relations can be more complicated when the member states do not have a commonly agreed position.

The European Union does not maintain its own collective standing military force but, instead, relies on the capabilities of each of its members. Europe is still militarily protected by the Cold War-era NATO alliance to an extent as twenty-two of the current EU members is active NATO supporters. Regardless, the EU has, on call over 1.5 million personnel, nearly 7,700 tanks, 2,450 aircraft (including helicopters), and nearly 550 warships and submarines.

Nine EU member states have agreed to establish a European military force for rapid deployment in times of crisis, an initiative which has won the backing of the UK as it seeks to maintain defence ties after Brexit. The UK has traditionally been wary of efforts to build a European defence cooperation that could challenge NATO structures, but has become a champion of such initiatives since the vote to leave the EU.

Analysis

Emmanuel Macron has called for the creation of a “true European army” to allow the European Union to defend itself from threats ranging from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin. Macron has used the World War I armistice centenary commemorations to call for a real European army, warning that rising nationalism and populism threaten the fragile peace on the continent. Macron is preparing to host dozens of world leaders, including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, to mark the 100th anniversary of the World War I armistice in Paris.

“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.” The French president continued: “We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army. “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.” “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.” The French president has spoken of modern threats to European peace, including the re-emergence of “authoritarian powers” and “intrusion attempts in cyber-space” seeking to derail democratic elections in Europe.

The election of Mr. Trump to the White House appears to have given more urgency to the cause of boosting the European Union’s defence capabilities, with leaders warning they cannot simply rely on the United States. European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker said last year that “deference to NATO can no longer be used as a convenient alibi to argue against greater European efforts”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the idea of an intervention force in June, but said it would have to be part of "the structure of defence co-operation". The UK, while in favour of such a joint force, is opposed to a European army, because of the potential risk of creating a parallel structure to NATO.

Macron has advocated for the mobilization of a collective European force since his elections last year. France is the strongest and most vocal proponent of a European Union army and Germany has tentatively endorsed Macron’s proposals for a joint command structure for military interventions. A number of proposals have been put on the table for how EU nations could cooperate more closely on defence. The European Commission says closer defence cooperation “is not about creating an EU army”.

The E.U. launched an annual €5.5 billion ($6.3 billion) joint defence fund last year and added another €13 billion ($14.8 billion) in defence spending in June to support the development of new military technology. France has also led the formation of a nine-country rapid deployment force to respond to crises like evacuations or natural disasters.

Macron is likely to warn Trump, Putin and other leaders that multilateralism and cooperation between nations must be protected in what he calls a new era of isolationism and populism akin to that of the 1930s. He said, “I am struck by similarities between the times we live in and those between the two world wars,” adding that nationalism was a “leprosy” spreading worldwide.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the creation of EU armed forces with a role in defending Europe’s borders would mean a shift in EU policy towards territorial defence which is presently taken care of by NATO. We believe that the European Union should strengthen its defence but duplication of NATO would be mean more spending and lack of coordination because this army would have to be created from scratch.